I am an independent candidate in this coming General Election and I have lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis for 30 years. My story is not one of visible discrimination but rather the invisible kind. You see I look like I am fit as a fiddle. Behind my smile is chronic pain that can leave me unable to even move. I have times when I cannot dress myself and I have to ask my husband or children to help me. I have at times not been able to walk up or down stairs, cut my own food, open my jaw to eat, move my arms. I spent a year and a half walking with a cane because the flare up in my foot just wouldn’t go away. These flare ups can last from just a few hours up to four days and the pain of someone even touching the area that I have the flare up in is excruciating. I am fed up explaining my flare up’s, telling people I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and then I get the ‘look at you, there’s nothing wrong with you’ look. I am often called a moan if I speak of my chronic pain, it’s infuriating, and its most unfair. What irritates me most, is to be in so much pain and to be accused of making it up and looking for sympathy. As a result of this, I rarely speak of my Rheumatoid Arthritis. If I am walking with other people, after a few minutes, I am in pain and I have to slow down. They wonder whats up and when I tell them I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, they look at me and again and go ‘you look grand!’ I just have to deal with it in silence now. I wish people were more aware of many silent illnesses.